Let's face it: It seems some children are ready to use computers before they can even read books. So how to share your home computer with a 3-year-old who might erase mommy's client list? Berkeley Systems Inc., based in the California city of the same name and famous for its flying-toaster screen-saving software, may have the answer in a home-computer security program called Launch Pad.
Designed for computer jocks up to age 10, Launch Pad operates as a screen-saver featuring dinosaurs and haunted houses. It also allows each child in a household to log in to the computer by clicking on his or her icon and entering a secret code, which may be as simple as clicking on a series of pictures in a defined order. Then, the child can use only those programs a parent has deemed appropriate. Launch Pad helps move from program to program with icons and menus that talk--for those who haven't quite mastered their ABCs. Berkeley Systems President Wes Boyd says the program can work with progressively more sophisticated passwords and features as the child matures, but it's far from hack-proof.
EDITED BY JOHN W. VERITY